A SLOW final pit stop and lack of pace may have prevented Craig Lowndes and Steve Richards from getting on the podium in the first race of the V8 Supercars’ Endurance Cup, but make no mistake, the duo will rank amongst the favourites at Bathurst next month.
The Red Bull Racing duo had to settle for fourth in the Sandown 500 as team-mates Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell claimed the chequered flag ahead of the two Holden Racing Team Commodores.
But Richards and Lowndes had been running in third for a substantial portion of the race and improved on their starting position after qualifying seventh.
Then there is the duo’s experience to take into account when weighing up their status as a potential Bathurst 1000 winning combination.
Lowndes is a five-times Great Race winner and has finished on the podium on another five occasions – a record no other driver in this year’s Bathurst 1000 field can match.
Last year Richards paired Ford Performance Racing star Mark Winterbottom to Bathurst 1000 glory, that effort marking the third time he has stood on the top tier of the podium after the endurance epic.
He has also twice finished as runner-up and snared a third placing.
In terms of Bathurst co-drivers, only HRT’s Greg Murphy boasts more success in the 1000 than Richards.
That is part of the reason why Lowndes is so happy to be sharing his #888 entry with the Kiwi native – who also boasts a Bathurst 24 Hour win.
“He understands the mentality, the way he operates, the way he wants the car, really suits what I am looking for as well,” Lowndes told V8Xtra.
“You want someone that has experience, you want someone that has the knowledge and fits into the team as well and Steve does that. He’s been around for a long time as well.
“I think he is a very proud person and wants to do well.”
Though an extremely experienced competitor, Richards is excited about the prospect of competing at Bathurst with Lowndes and V8 Supercars’ dominant team.
“Pairing up with Craig this year for the Enduro Cup, it’s probably the biggest challenge I’ve had in my driving career on the V8 Supercars grid,” Richards said.
“So I am looking forward to all the challenges that throws out, not to mention driving with probably one of the most successful teams from the last five or six years.
“Driving with Craig is going to be fantastic. Our careers in some ways have been parallel – Formula Ford at the same time, we raced against each other as competitors.”
The fourth placing at Sandown elevated Lowndes into second in the drivers’ championship behind Red Bull team-mate Whincup, which gives the result of the Bathurst 1000 extra significance for the Holden outfit.
Richards is well aware of the pressure he is under to have a mistake-free run at Mount Panorama, but it is a challenge he relishes.
“I love driving these cars, I love being around the team and because the nature of the championship is so competitive, I still love to measure myself as a part-timer against all the other co-drivers,” he said.
“For me it is as much about performing my role within the team as well as getting the most out of myself.”
The 2014 Bathurst 1000 gets underway at 10.30am on October 12.
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